Marathon training tips from Dani Nimmock following her new PB at Frankfurt Marathon
SV client Dani Nimmock recently completed the Frankfurt Marathon. This was only Dani's second marathon and she was aiming for a sub 2:50 time...
She smashed it with a PB of 2:48:16!
We asked Dani a few questions about her fantastic running year...
What advice would you give to someone training for a marathon? I have six main tips when it comes to training for a marathon.
Prioritise quality over quantity, especially when, like me, you work full-time and have to get the most out of the precious time you have to devote to training. There’s more to be gained from structured, pace specific training rather than loads of slow ‘garbage’ miles! For example, instead of doing the typical long 18mile slow run on a Sunday, which takes lots of time and stress on your feet, I’d suggest replacing it with a long session that consists of a 1-2mile warm-up, then 3 x 3 miles at a pace between marathon and half marathon pace with a couple of minutes’ slow jog in between, followed by a 1-2mile warm-down. This way you’re still covering a good distance and you can still practice eating and drinking on the run but you’re also working the right energy systems that will help you on race day.
Definitely build in a shorter interval session once a week such as 6 x 1 mile at 10k pace, as this will make your marathon pace feel much easier.
Make time for core stability work too as this will make you stronger and help you avoid injuries.
Before starting your training, you need to make sure that your goal is realistic to the amount of time you can train. For instance, if it is only possible to run 3-4 times per week a sub 3hr marathon is unlikely to be attained (unless you are very talented!!!). Fit in your training into your life rather than fitting your life around your training as you will miss far less sessions and be open to the idea that you may have some very early mornings so you can get your run done before work, or if your place of work has a shower why not run to work or use your lunch-break for a run instead. If you are a novice and have only run a couple of times a week, don’t suddenly double your training over night! You should only increase your training by a maximum of 10% per week and I’d recommend having every sixth week as a recovery week to give your body time to adapt to the training; during this easier week do some cross-training and only very steady runs.
Don’t make the marathon your first race! It’s a great idea to do a couple of half marathons in the lead up as this is a great way of testing your improving fitness and will give you a good idea of what pace you can aim for over the full 26.2m distance.
Try and mix up your terrain so that you’re not just running on road all the time. If you can do your interval session on grass or the trails in Epping Forest, it will help you build strength and put less impact on your leg and foot muscles. If you have to train at night, make sure it’s well-lit – anywhere next to a floodlit track/ sports pitch for example would be okay.
What have you learnt the most from your marathons? That if you have done the correct training the only reason that you will ‘hit the wall’ is if you go off too fast and/ or don’t take on enough carbs and fluid during the race. It worked well for me by drinking every 5k and taking a gel every 35 - 40 minutes. Practice what works well for you in training.
Why was Frankfurt Marathon 2016 so successful for you? I did more miles in training runs at a pace faster than my target marathon pace and I nailed my hydration and nutrition strategy. I also didn’t get carried away with the excitement and buzz of the race atmosphere – I kept in control of my pace and didn’t get affected by other runners around me. I also had a regular, fortnightly sports massage during my five-month training plan instead of waiting to see a sports therapist only when I had a niggle or injury. Doing this meant that I kept injuries away and was able to have a really good period of uninhibited training.
What positives can you take away from this year's training and Frankfurt's success?
My pacing was spot on but weirdly my final two miles were my fastest! This means that I know I can run much quicker if I carry on training the same way. I came away from the Frankfurt marathon with aching legs but a lot of confidence and ambitions for my next marathon! What's your best tips for optimum recovery? After a long, hard training run I love to treat myself to a Clif Protein bar (the chocolate and peanut butter flavor is my favourite) and I wash it down with a pint of skimmed milk. Stretching on the foam roller is also key for getting knots out of your muscles and helps you run better the following day. What's the best advice someone has given you for long distance running and why? With marathon running, I’d say the best advice is a line my husband (who coaches me) said, which is simply ‘Respect the distance’. I think it’s key to race day, and in training, because if you don’t respect the distance you probably won’t do the adequate training for it. When over 35,000 people finish the London Marathon every year it sounds like an awful lot, but remember it’s only 1-2% of the total population that have run a marathon! The marathon isn’t like a 5k where pretty much anyone could do it if they ran once a week; it’s a special event and it takes a certain someone to have the capacity to train and eventually complete it. What do you need to improve? I need to build up my training and see where it is possible to fit in a few more quality miles in my weekly schedule. I also need to concentrate on lowering my 10k and half marathon PB’s as this will naturally make my marathon pace quicker. How does running make you feel?
I’ve always loved running ever since I was a child racing around the playground at lunchtime and even though my runs are on a structured training schedule I still view running as my ‘play-time’ and an escape from work and other responsibilities so I suppose it makes me feel free. When I’m running, I’m doing it for myself and it’s a time when I am in my happy space and can sort out my thoughts and reflect on everything else going on in my life. I struggle to cope with life when I can’t or don’t run. Even if I swim or cross train, nothing is the same as running – it’s my equilibrium. How important/or not important is it for you when you pick your running trainers for training and racing?
I have had gait analysis in the past and because I over-pronate I was always advised to wear supportive footwear. However, it wouldn’t keep my niggles away so I took the decision upon myself in the last couple of years to run in neutral trainers and run how my body naturally wants to. I found that in not wearing footwear designed to ‘fix’ me I started running better and didn’t get so many niggles. This may not work for everyone but it’s something to consider. For racing my trainers are much lighter than what I do my training runs in and I’ll always race at least a half marathon in the shoes I plan on wearing for the marathon, to make sure they’re comfortable and don’t cause blisters. Do you do a warm up before training or racing? What effect do you think this has on your performance?
Yes, I ALWAYS warm up before training and racing. Even on a steady run, my first mile will be much slower than the rest of the run. Before an interval session and a race, I’ll also do drills such as ankle flexes, high knees, side steps, lunges and also four fast ten second stride-outs. I find this helps all my muscles and tendons get prepared for what’s about to come! Besides the usual benefits like gradually increasing your heart rate and loosening up your muscles, warming up also gives you a chance to listen to your body and make sure everything is okay.